'Do not panic': MLA confirms COVID-19 case in Fort Resolution

In a video recorded shortly after 4:30 p.m. Friday, MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh Steve Norn confirmed that the case of COVID-19 identified in a "small community" was in Fort Resolution, N.W.T.

Deninu Kue First Nation Facebook post appeared to identify location of COVID-19 case earlier Friday

MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh Steve Norn confirmed Friday reports a case of COVID-19 had been identified in the community. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

The MLA representing Fort Resolution, N.W.T., took to Facebook to confirm rumours that a case of COVID-19 had been identified in the community.

Territorial health officials announced in a release late Thursday that two new cases of COVID-19 had been identified in the territory, including one in what the release identified as a "small community." That person was later hospitalized in Yellowknife.

On Friday, a post on Fort Resolution's Deninu Kue First Nation Facebook page, apparently from Chief Louis Balsillie, suggested that case was identified in Fort Resolution.

"Yesterday the big brasses in [Yellowknife] were notified that the Covid was in the community," the post reads. "As a chief I was not notified by any officials and just word of mouth late last night. Only this morning I was informed that yes there is a case here."

In a video recorded shortly after 4:30 p.m. Friday, MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh Steve Norn said "this report is true."

"The said patient is now recovering at the Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife," he said.

"With this news, I want to say to everybody, do not panic."

For privacy reasons, health officials in the N.W.T. do not identify the location of confirmed COVID-19 cases in small communities.

In comments on Balsillie's post, many residents have attempted to identify the patient in question.

"I ask that everyone be kind and patient with each other," said Norn in his video. "Nothing is going to be gained through bickering and petty arguments."

Fort Resolution Mayor Patrick Simon told CBC that the chief public health officer has refused to confirm whether the latest case was a community resident. 

"To ensure that we begin to act properly in this situation, we have to be told something so that we can take our measures to ensure the community is safe and healthy," Simon said.  

Roadblock, checkpoints set up near community

In a subsequent post made Friday to the Deninu Kue Facebook page, Balsillie said the community had set up a checkpoint on the road into the community.

"All vehicles will be stopped and people who do not live in Fort Resolution will have to turn around except for essential service workers and grocery/ fuel trucks," a post from Balsillie reads. "Residents of Fort Resolution can still leave and return to the community."

In his earlier post, Balsillie said he tried to set up the checkpoint "2 weeks ago."

"As a leader I am really upset I'm notified after the fact. How am I supposed to help keep the community safety when I'm in the dark," he wrote.

Calls for unity

In his video, Norn said he supports all measures the community is taking "to protect themselves."

He also called for the community to work together to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

"We've went through these scourges before, as a community, and we got through it, as a community, because we worked together. And this presents a perfect opportunity to do that," he said.

"It's going to take discipline."

Norn said in light of the news, he will be lobbying aggressively for new restrictions on liquor sales in the N.W.T.

"There's still rumours of partying happening, gatherings," he said. "Please, please, please, do not do this. You're putting people's health at risk."

Norn said he was sympathetic to residents experiencing cabin fever in a time when most are out at spring carnivals, dog races, and talent shows.

"This whole experience is going against the grain as northerners. I ask again that we be patient."

"This COVID-19 is no joke. It's bigger than politics," he said. "It doesn't [infect] through family lines or social status. It infects indiscriminately."

"Look after each other."

With files from Hilary Bird